Saturday, February 21, 2015

Column: Elephant feet allow cyclists to keep riding

Here is the unedited version of my column that appeared today in the Maple Ridge News:

At several  locations in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows some new pavement markings called "elephant feet" have appeared in recent years.  I suspect that few  people know what they mean. The markings are confusing, and so is the name. Sometimes they're called "crossbike crossings", which makes their purpose somewhat clearer.

Elephant feet in front of Maple Ridge Secondary School
Normally, when cyclists ride on an off-road multi-use path, or a sidewalk - as is allowed in Maple Ridge according to the City's website - cyclists are required to dismount when crossing at a pedestrian crossing. When the crossing has elephant feet markings, they don't need to.
The markings can be placed either on each side of a pedestrian crossing - in which case the crossing is shared with pedestrians - or on one side of it - so that pedestrians and cyclists each have their own crossing.

In Maple Ridge, shared pedestrian/cyclist crossings can be found along 122nd Ave. and Mountainview Crescent (at Maple Ridge Secondary School), along Abernathy Way between 224th and 232nd Streets, and you'll see them in Pitt Meadows when crossing Kennedy Road near Ferry Slip Road close to the Pitt River Bridge. The one in Pitt Meadows is painted green which helps provide clarity that this is a cyclist crossing.

Elephant feet are used for the convenience of cyclists. Having to get off your bike at every intersection is very  inconvenient and discourages people from biking. Imagine having to get out of your car at every intersection and having to push it across!

All road users need to be aware of safety issues with these types of crossings. Most car/bike collisions occur at intersections, and the danger increases when cyclists do not bike on the road. Drivers don't expect cyclists to enter an intersection from a sidewalk or off-road path. Often drivers also under-estimate the speed of a cyclist. Both drivers and cyclists need to slow down, and look out for other traffic nearing the intersection and potentially crossing their path, whether going straight or turning.

All the elephant crossings in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows are along bi-directional multi-use paths, which means that drivers need to be extra cautious and look out for cyclists coming from both directions. Of course the same goes for drivers entering or exiting driveways that cross a multi-use path.

Maple Ridge also has its first "bike boxes", on Laity at the Lougheed intersection. A bike box is a painted green space on the road with a white bicycle symbol inside it. They allow cyclists to position themselves ahead of cars at an intersection. They are meant to reduce collisions between right-turning cars and cyclists going straight, and it also makes it easier for cyclists to make left turns. They also increase visibility of cyclists. What I like about them too is that you don't have to wait behind a car, breathing in its exhaust fumes.

Bike box on Laity
Motorists should of course stop behind the bike box. It's safest for cyclists going south on Laity to continue riding in the middle of the lane once past the intersection until they pass the narrowest section of roadway, so they don't get squeezed against the curb when a car passes too close.

Drivers, please be aware that cyclists riding in the middle of the lane most often do so to stay safe, so your patience and courtesy would be much appreciated. Please help cyclists get home safe and sound!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

128th Ave. widening

An Open House was held on January 28 about the widening of 128th Ave./Abernathy corridor.
You can find more info about the project here. Click on the link on the City's info page to view the display boards that were used at the Open House.

Our HUB committee provided the following recommendations to the City:

Rather than separating the 1% fast and fearless cyclists from the other 59-or-so% that are not quite as fast and confident, and letting the latter share a multi-use path with pedestrians with dogs and strollers, it's pedestrians and cyclists that should be separated from eachother. 

HUB's solution:

Instead of MUP and 1.5 wide shoulder on north side:
  • Eliminate the 1.5 meter shoulder along the roadway on the north side, while maintaining the shoulder on the south side. 
  • Reduce the width of the pedestrian pathway to 2 meters. 
  • Reduce the buffer on the north side by 0.5 meter. 
  • Add a bi-directional, 3 meter wide bike path, accommodating the 1% going west, as well as the 59-or-so% less confident cyclists going in both directions.
  • Provide a clear separation between the pedestrian and the cycling paths (e.g. low curb, or green coloured asphalt for bike path).
  • Design intersection at 216th (and 224th) in a way that the cyclist + pedestrian crossing is highly visible to turning motorists (bike crossing painted green), and provide signage to indicate bi-directional nature of the bike path.  
  • Provide cyclist lights, synchronized east-west with traffic lights for cars.

  • Cyclists and cyclists mix better than cyclists and pedestrians.   
  • Maintaining the 1.5 meter shoulder on the south side allows fast and fearless cyclists to use that option when traveling in easterly direction, reducing the higher likelihood for these fast traveling cyclists to be hit by a turning motorist if they were to be traveling in the "wrong" direction on the north side of the road.
  • The 59% of cyclists who would cycle more if conditions were more favorable, are more likely to do so if they're given a status more equitable to that of other road users - i.e. by being given their own path - and if they don't need to stop at every intersection and thus keep their momentum, just like any other wheeled road users (this is even more important for non-motorized ones!).  

Other recommendations/comments:
  • Driveway crossings should be painted green to discourage cars from blocking the path while waiting for a gap in traffic. Driveway crossings could also be raised through the driveway to provide further indication that cyclists have right of way. 
  • Care should be given to provide wide enough gaps between any bollards, with straight lines at intersections, as much as possible. One bollard at either side of each driveway, in the middle of the path, should be sufficient. If at some point in time it is determined that bollards are required on either side of the path at each driveway, these bollards should be placed on the outside of the path, not on the path (as was done on the Lougheed Highway MUP. These make the path feel much narrower).
  • Shoulder on south side seems to disappear just east of Golden Ears Cheesecrafters? Needs to continue all the way to 224th.
  • Users of the MUP going westbound should get a warning at the dike access point just west of Laity, that the MUP ends at 210th Street.
  • Cyclist crossing on the south side at Laity should be painted green (on the design panel it looks like a pedestrian crossing, which would mean that cyclists have to dismount to cross).
  • The use of concrete barriers would be good along some of the sections of the MUP where the buffer is narrow, to provide better separation from cars. No barriers should be placed close to driveways/intersections, to ensure good visibility. Any barriers should not be placed on the MUP, but beside it.
  • Need a pedestrian crossing at Blackstock, with push button activated lights.
  • Use tight turn radii to make cars slow down when they turn!
  • Please ensure surface water drainage on the north side of 128th Ave. doesn't impact the pathways.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

River Road barriers / E-mail to City of Maple Ridge

Our HUB committee just sent the following e-mail to the Maple Ridge Engineering Department (David Pollock)
(cc'd to Mayor Read and Councilors Speirs and Duncan)

Hi David,

We at HUB were unaware that neighbourhood consultation on traffic calming for River Road had taken place in November 2014, until someone posted some photos on our HUB Maple Ridge Pitt Meadows facebook group of the barriers that have been put up recently along River Road. Someone else just today noticed the display boards from the neighbourhood consultation that are posted on the Maple Ridge website.

As you know, River Road is being used as a fast commuter route by cyclists. Safety for cyclists has long been a concern though, with few cyclists other than the "strong and fearless" being brave enough to use this route. Safety for cyclists has now become an even greater concern, as the barriers have caused some drivers to exhibit an even more aggressive behaviour towards cyclists. 

As you know, the nearest east-west long-distance commuter route is Lougheed Highway, which is even more dangerous. The next one up, the Selkirk route, is unsuitable as a fast commuter route due to the many stop signs. Dewdney, the next closest east-west route, is even more dangerous than both River Road and Lougheed. It is unreasonable to expect cyclists to ride as far north as the 121- or 123 bikeway to find a safer commuter bike route (distance at 216th: 1 km to 121 route, 1.3 km to 123 route; at 207 St 1.6 km; at 224th 1.1 km to 121 route and 1.8 km to the 123 route , with a very steep hill). For this reason, it is important that cyclists' concerns are considered with regard to any traffic calming measures on River Road.

We would like to request the Engineering Department to immediately take the following measures all along River Road:
  • put up Share the Road signs
  • paint sharrows

These are the absolute minimum requirements to - marginally - improve safety for cyclists on River Road.

River Road was clearly designed to be a low speed, low volume residential road. Too many drivers are choosing River Road to avoid the traffic lights on Lougheed. To reduce rat-running, and to reduce the present traffic volumes that are not appropriate for this type of street, we would like the City to consider allowing left and right turns only at 216th or Laity Street, except for bicycles, through the use of bike-permeable diverters.

It is important for cyclists to have a fine grained network with lower traffic speeds that can be shared with cars, whereas drivers should be offered a coarse grained network of arterials for higher speed driving. It's important to preserve - and where possible improve - the few east-west routes cyclists have, in order to offer cyclists as well as pedestrians a truly multi-modal transportation network. 

With kind regards,

Jackie Chow
HUB Cycling
Maple Ridge/Pitt Meadows Chapter

Here are some photos of the barriers that were installed:

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Open House road improvements 203rd Street: Feb. 17

The long-awaited Open House for improvements on 203rd Street (Dewdney to Golden Ears Way) is imminent: mark it on your calendars for Tues. Feb. 17, 4 - 8 pm. I've been told we'll see some innovative road design here, new for Maple Ridge. Click here for more info.